In January, before the weather was good enough to do much in the garden, we started out the season by attending our first fruit tree scion exchange.
A few weeks later we then attended a grafting workshop hosted by the California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG). Then in mid-March we ventured into grafting 8 apple trees (technically 6 apples, and 2 crab apples).
Each scion was cleft grafted to M-111 apple rootstock, and potted into 1 gallon containers. Since then the grafted trees have been kept in partial sun, receiving sunlight in the early part of the day, but protected from the scorching sun in the afternoon.
It’s now been six weeks since the scions were grafted to their new rootstocks. We’d hoped at least a few would take, but expected a few failures as we hadn’t grafted before. Besides, the orchard is almost full, and if they all survived, we might have trouble figuring out where to put them all!
Well…they survived! All eight of them!
The Wickson crab apple burst into spring, and was not only the first to push growth, but it even bloomed.
Any of the grafts that have bloomed this spring will not be allowed to fruit. Setting fruit at this stage will take important energy away from root and scion growth, and risks breaking the scion under the weight of the fruit.
The next most robust of the group is Allen’s Everlasting, which is putting on an impressive display for being not much taller than a pencil!
King David didn’t bloom, which is fine, but instead is surging ahead with new foliar growth.
Not too far behind is Hauer Pippin. Of all of the scions we acquired, we’re most excited to see this one thrive as it’s a local variety of apple.
The slowest of the grafts to push growth is Arkansas Black. This scion was less than ideal at the time of grafting, already looking a little dry when we first acquired it, so that it’s growing at all has surprised us.
Of course, the trees are still very young, and vulnerable to thermal stress, and drying out. For now we will transplant these grafted trees into larger containers to prevent the roots from becoming constricted.
We also need to keep any rootstock growth in check. Early on some foliar growth from the rootstock is thought to help produce energy for the scion, but rootstocks can quickly out-compete scion growth, so occasionally trimming rootstock leaf growth will be necessary until the apples are planted out.
In winter, when the trees are dormant and the stress of summer heat has passed, we’ll make room for these trees to be transplanted in the orchard.
I could be wrong, but I think we’re going to see a lot of apples at Curbstone Valley in the future!